Thursday, August 08, 2013

Quicksand - Spectral Reflections - Dizzy

Lately, Frank Gratkowski has been on the playlist. I find myself listening to his music in blocks - spend a week or two listening to a few of his albums and then take a break.

First up is his trio disc Quicksand (Miniscus 1999) Gratkowski (as/clr/b.clr) George Graewe (p) Paul Lovens (d/singing saw).
I bought this album late last year and it had been a good four or five months since I had last listened to it.
I am always amazed by the variety of sounds Frank can bring out of his horns, but usually the thing I enjoy most is his line playing - "Green Fuse"  has some nice alto lines with Graewe's piano playing likewise and Loven's drums interjecting and implying various pulses.
The energy is ramped up until the lines lead to breaking point. Things drop down with piano and drums moving into a lengthy duet with clarinet joining them in to round out the piece. The playing and interaction throughout the set is on a high level. For the most part this is fairly high energy free improvisation, but there is enough variety to keep things interesting. The music breathes and is nicely paced. Very nice sounding live recording too.
I find the length of the album refreshing - 44 minutes.

Frank Gratkowski Quartet - Spectral Reflections (Leo 2001)
Gratkowski (as/clr/contrabass clr) Wolter Wierbos (trb) Gerry Hemingway (d) Dieter Manderscheid (b)
The quartet covers a lot of ground over the six tracks - Abstraction ("Blonk"), Swing ("Annaherungem III"), Ballad ("Fenster"), Rhythmic intensity & full throttle blowing ("Loom"), Mysteriousness ("Spectral Reflections"). "Homage" combines many of the above - starting as a haunting ballad with arco bass and angular clarinet, adding vocalized sounds from trombone and minimalist textural playing from drums that gradually become more rhythmic. The trombone and clarinet move into a pointed dialogue with sparse accompaniment that gradually builds into full on swing from the rhythm section while the horns team up and dance on top. They then get a bit a solo space - with some particularly potent clarinet playing - before things drop back down and the piece wraps up with trombone and clarinet. I have heard a fair bit from the individuals in this group but haven't heard much of this quartet - time that changed I say. I would like to hear in concert.
Last December, Leo Records released a new album from the quartet - "La Vent Et La Gorge" I am yet to hear it.

Dizzy Gillespie's early years have had bit of a run over the last few days.
His first solo on record - "King Porter Stomp" from 1937 with the Teddy Hill Orchestra. "Pickin' The Cabbage" from 1940 with Cab Calloway & His Orchestra - was this his first recorded composition?
Coleman Hawkins 1944 recording of Gillespie's "Woody 'n' You" with Dizzy alongside other key players of the new music... Oscar Pettiford (b) and Max Roach (d).
"Blowing The Blues Away" from 1945 as part of Billy Eckstine's Big Band - Dizzy follows some extensive trading between the tenors of Dexter Gordon and Gene Ammons.
Then it was on to some his early work as a leader - sextet sessions from 1945 including "Groovin' High" & "Blue 'n' Boogie" (this was the first Dexter Gordon recording I heard) and the session from a couple of weeks later (this time with Charlie Parker) "Dizzy Atmosphere" & "Groovin' High." 

Town Hall, NYC, June 22 1945 (Uptown 2005)
Charlie Parker (as) Dizzy Gillespie (trpt) Al Haig (p) Curly Russell (b) Max Roach (d) Sid Catlett (d)... sits in on the last couple of tunes (a great contrast between the drum generations) Don Byas (ts)... fills in during the first tune until Bird arrives to much applause from the audience (seems he was gaining a loyal following).
A historically important and great sounding live recording - burning through classic repertoire - "Bebop", "A Night In Tunisia", "Groovin' High", "Salt Peanuts", "Hot House."
Each time I listen to this album I always ask "Why haven't I listened to this more?" If you haven't already, be sure to check it out.

The announcements from Symphony Sid Torin are cringe worthy, though they do fill in a few details and give some context to the time.
Diz and Bird played appeared at the Town Hall the previous month - is there another discovery for fans in the future?

I finished things off with some of classics from Dizzy's Big Band"Manteca" and George Russell's  "Cubano Be" & "Cubano Bop." 

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